By Catherine Lee
One of the most powerful politicians in the country will be at the podium at the 2011 City College graduation ceremony May 28 when House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi delivers the keynote speech.
Pelosi has represented California’s 8th Congressional District, which covers most of San Francisco, for 23 years. This year will be the first time Pelosi speaks at the college’s commencement, said Gohar Momjian, executive assistant to the chancellor.
The student speaker at graduation will be David Holly, a history student at City College since spring 2009, who is transferring to UC Berkeley in the fall.
Holly has been active in multiple campus programs, as a paid tutor and as a volunteer. He tutors with the Second Chance Program, which was created for formerly incarcerated students, at Extended Opportunity Program and Services. Holly is himself an alumni success story of the program. He also volunteered with the Homeless at-risk Transitional Students program.
The event is limited to graduating students and their families. Students who purchased a graduation package have six tickets, which can be supplemented with four more tickets if reserved.
Approximately 500 students and their families are expected to attend the event in Ram Stadium, and security will be a little tighter than usual due to Pelosi’s appearance, said Nazdira Hamden of the Office of Student Affairs.
Pelosi is still working on her speech but it will likely include comments about the passage of Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which was considered the greatest federal increase to student aid in the history of the United States, said Dan Bernal, district director for Pelosi’s San Francisco office.
Under Pelosi’s leadership SAFRA was attached to the landmark health care legislation passed in March 2010. The legislation includes significant increases in student aid, including Pell Grant increases, increased funding for campus work-study programs and changes in tax credits for families paying for school.
Pelosi’s impact on City College student life is well documented; she earmarked the capital funds for the Ocean campus Health Center, which opened in 2007.
While Pelosi herself has a busy schedule, her office appears to be investing new energy in City College concerns.
In early May Pelosi’s staff could be seen on campus for “Congress on Your Corner.” This recent outreach effort, or “office hours,” is an opportunity for students and the campus community to benefit from real-time interaction with Pelosi’s staff.
Staffers from Pelosi’s office indicated that they want these “office hours” to bolster visibility of Pelosi’s availability as a resource for federal programs, benefits and issues, said constituent caseworker Alex Lazar, and Bernal, who somehow managed to get a sunburn in the Ocean campus fog.
The campus outreach is unrelated to the commencement speech but part of a general effort to “bring services out to the students, making them more aware of how leader Pelosi can help,” said Bernal.
“In talking with students at Ram Plaza, we’ve been really impressed with how knowledgeable they are about events at the national level. They’re really interested in veteran’s benefits, health care and the DREAM Act, which leader Pelosi supports,” Bernal said.
And of course, many more students have questions and will continue to ask questions about college funding, like loans and Pell Grants, he said.
Pelosi’s staff will be on campus for more student and constituent input and questions May 18 and 25 at Ram Plaza, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Summer dates at other City College campuses for “Congress on Your Corner” with Pelosi’s staff will be announced in the future.